Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bible for Dummies - Solomon Dies and Israel Divides

In this episode, Solomon has died and the nation of Israel divides in a civil war. The Northern Tribes (10 in all) take the name, Israel.  The Southern Tribes (2 - Judah and Benjamin) take the name, Judah. From it's inception, Israel is ruled by evil kings who lead her down a path of idolatry.  Judah is ruled by better kings, but they, too, have their problems.

Listen to this podcast and see how relevant the issues are. Godly leadership is crucial, we learn. As the leader goes, so often goes the nation.  For those concerned about the path America is taking, this lesson is incredibly relevant as we see the kings of the Northern Tribes lead their people into destruction.

May God bless you as you study His Word.

Chapter 10 – A Tale of Two Kingdoms
1 and 2 Kings; 1 and 2 Chronicles 
Part 2

** After Solomon’s death (~ 922BC), the 12 tribes of Israel divide into two kingdoms:  Israel (Northern Kingdom) and Judah (Southern Kingdom).

** Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, is king over the Southern tribes, while Jeroboam, the rebellious leader of Solomon’s servants/workers, becomes king over the Northern tribes.

Snips and Flails and Scorpion’s Tails: Rehoboam Divides a Nation – 1 Kings 12

** When Rehoboam became King, he went to Shechem (in Manasseh - West) with the expectation of the northern tribes showing some allegiance by crowning him king over all of Israel.

** Hearing what was happening, Jeroboam returns from exile in Egypt to confront Rehoboam by declaring, “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke
that he placed on us, and we will serve you.” (1 Kings 12:4)

** But, in order to show his power/authority, Rehoboam raised the ante on the workers in the northern tribes when he took the advice of his younger counselors, telling the workers they needed to produce more than they had in Solomon’s time saying (v. 14) - “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” 
** This was the beginning of the end of the United Kingdom of Israel.  Soon thereafter, the kingdom splits with Jeroboam becoming king over Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and Rehoboam remaining king over the Southern Kingdom, Judah.

Idol Time: Jeroboam and the Golden Calves – 1 Kings 13-14

** Jeroboam becomes the first of many kings in Israel that are evil in God’s sight. He reigns for 22 years.

·      He establishes a new capital, in Samaria (now you know the historic reason that the Jews hate Samaritans…from Jeroboam, to Jesus’ day, and even today.)
·      Builds two worship/sacrifice centers: Dan (north) and Bethel (south). The intent is to have a place where people can offer their sacrifices to God without needing to go to Jerusalem in Judah.
·      At both sites a golden bull was established as the symbol of God’s presence. Jeroboam declares that it was this god (the pagan god, Marduk – the bull of Utu who is the sun god of the Assyrians/Babylonians, the god of virility…btw – is commemorated by the constellation,Tarsus) who saved Israel from Egypt.  see 1 Kings 12:28
o   This establishes a competition with the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem and is in contradiction to the First Commandment – “You shall have no other gods before me.”
·      This establishes the legacy of the kings of Israel…that they are condemned by Yahweh for leading his people into idolatry.  See God’s prophetic word against Jeroboam and his successors: 1 Kings 14:7-16

Cut to Judah: Shishak’s Campaign – 1 Kings 14:25-28; 2 Chronicles 12

** Due to the civil war of Israel, in the fifth year of Jeroboam’s reign, Egyptian Pharaoh, Shishak,  successfully invades Judah.

·      Rehoboam negotiates a peace treaty and pays Shishak handsomely by stripping the wealth of the Temple and giving it to Shishak.
·      This weakens Judah’s self-esteem.  And some speculate that the Ark of the Covenant was part of that negotiation as we never hear about it again.
o   Others speculate that the Ark was hidden…either by Jeremiah or by King Josiah.
·      What we do know is that the Ark is not mentioned as part of the plunder garnered by the Babylonians when they conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple (586BC) before taking all of Israel/Judah into captivity.

Israel’s Kingdom from Jeroboam to Ahab

** To say that Israel’s walk with God deteriorated rapidly would be a vast understatement. As the king went, so went the entire kingdom.

·      The succession plan was one, primarily, of assignation after assassination.
·      The constant through it all is the paganism of the kings, highlighted by the worship of Baal (the Canaanite god) and Baal’s significant other, Asherah
·      Then Israel was split by another internal division between Omri and Tibni (1 Kings 16:21), with the followers of Omri defeating Tibni.
·      Omri’s legacy - “Omri did what was evil in the sight of the LORD; he did more evil than all who were before him.” (1 Kings 16:25)
·      By the time of Omri’s dynastic reign (~882-842BC), Israel was in full-fledged idolatry. A microcosm of those issues can be seen in the reign of Ahab (~873-852BC) and his queen, Jezebel

Ahoy, there, King Ahab! – 1 Kings 16-22

** Ahab is the tenth king of Israel. With Jezebel, his Phoenician-born queen, they are arguably the most sinister and evil of Israel’s rulers.

** Ahab began his 22-year reign in the 38th year of King Asa rule over Judah.  He was a “chip off the old block” – “Ahab son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD more than all who were before him.  (1 Kings 16:30)

·      His first accomplishment was to erect an altar for Baal in Shechem.
·      He also erected an “Asherah Pole” for Asherah, the mother goddess of the Phoenicians, Canaanites, Babylonians, and Assyrians.
o   Poles were symbolic of worship. They were often carved in the phallic shapes.
o   Around the poles religious rituals were performed as an act of worship to Baal and his sweetie, Asherah. Included in those rites were sexual practices with the priest/priestesses of that particular god.
o   Child sacrifice was also practiced. After the child was killed as an act of worship, the corpse was placed in the foundation of a home as an expression of dedication to the god, and as a way of asking for a blessing from that god.
o   According to Babylonian legend, Asherah (or Ishtar in their tradition) came to earth via a giant egg that dropped from heaven and hatched on earth. Thus, Asherah became the goddess of fertility.

Note 1: Interestingly, when this ancient religion was introduced to modern-day England by the Celtic people long before the birth of Jesus, they translated Asherah’s name as, “Eastre.” The priests of Eastre were known as the Druids. Part of their springtime ritual that celebrated the cycle of death and life, remembered at the Spring Solstice, was symbolized by eggs, in honor of Asherah’s/Eastre’s birth. Thus, the Easter (think, “Eastre”) egg hunt was adapted from the pagan worship of Asherah, and bunnies – a fast-reproducing animal – were introduced as the symbol of Spring.

Note 2: The good news is that we know that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is accurately celebrated in the Spring, not as an adaptation of the pagan holiday, but in connection with the Jewish celebration of Passover – the remembrance of God’s grace and saving work as he passed over the firstborns of Israel while killing the firstborns of Egypt.

Ahab and Ben-Hadad

·      After Ahab had been humiliated by Elijah and all of Baal’s priests were killed (next week’s beginning point), realizing how vulnerable Israel was (the superstition was that the battles between armies was a demonstration of the strength of the gods, and since Israel’s god had just lost to Elijah’s god…they were perceived to be weak), King Ben-hadad of Aram (for location, see map on page 1), along with 23 other kings, attacked Ahab and Samaria (20:1).
·      Ben-hadad sent word to Ahab, “Give me everything or die!”  Ahab acquiesced.
·      Ben-hadad sent word, “Tell your people that my people are coming, and they are to cooperate by giving my people anything they wish to take.”
·      Ahab checked with his elders/leaders who told Ahab he should resist and not give in to Ben-hadad’s demands.
·      Ahab rebuffs Ben-hadad this time, so Ben-hadad lets it be known that the battle is on.

** Then God steps in to defend Israel…

·      An unnamed prophet from God went to Ahab and let him know that the Lord, himself, would give Ahab victory (20:13)
·      Ahab disbelieves and asks how this would happen.
·      God was going to use the young officers of the governors who were in charge of the fiscal and military matters. They are likely not seasoned warriors, but similar to new graduates fresh from the academy.
·      Lastly, God instructs Ahab to be the one who begins the battle…significant because they would need to leave the fortified cities (i.e.: trust the Lord) in order to fight.
·      So, 232 of these young officers led 7,000 Israelites into battle.

** The Battle begins…

·      Israel went out at noon. The 232 beat the advance soldiers from Ben-hadad. The enemy retreats.
·      Then Ahab led his army into battle and defeated the Arameans.
·      The excuse of the Aramean generals – “We fought them in the hills and their hill gods were stronger than ours…but let us fight them in the plains where our plain gods are stronger.” (20:23)
·      So Aram lost the first round and prepared for the second round…in the Spring.

** The Spring Battle

·      It was suppose to be a slaughter with Israel being far outmatched. “The people of Israel encamped opposite them like two little flocks of goats, while the Arameans filled the country.” (20:27)
·      But God had another plan – “Thus says the Lord: Because the Arameans have said, ‘The LORD is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,’ therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”  (20:28)
·      There was a stare-down for 7 days, then the battle began with Israel killing 100,000 infantry in one day.  The rest of the army fled, along with Ben-hadad.
·      Ben-hadad’s servants encouraged him to appeal to Ahab’s merciful side.
·      Ben-hadad agreed to rebuild everything he had restored, so Ahab spared his life on those conditions, and a treaty was established.
·      However, what seemed to be a merciful act was an offense to God.
·      So God foretells Ahab’s plight - “Because you have let the man go whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall be for his life, and your people for his people.” (20:42)
·      Ahab’s destiny was sealed.

Ahab and Naboth

·      Naboth owned a vineyard near Ahab’s palace in Samaria.  Ahab wanted the vineyard.
·      Ahab made Naboth an offer to purchase, outright, the land, or trade it for another piece of land.
·      Naboth refused the offer since the land was a family asset.
·      This depressed Aham, who went home, sulked, and lay in bed.
·      Jezebel told Aham that she would get the land, and that he should “shake it off”
·      So Jezebel wrote Naboth in Ahab’s name, inviting him to a feast where he would be the honored guest. What he didn’t know was that two unscrupulous men would be seated next to him.
o   Why two men? Because according to the Law, it took two witnesses to accuse someone of blasphemy (i.e.: cursing God) if the man was to be convicted. The punishment for blasphemy was death by stoning.
·      Naboth’s death happened as planned, so Jezebel sent word to Ahab that he could go and claim the property.

** God’s Response to Jezebel’s Evil

·      God sent Elijah to declare his response. So, confronting Ahab in the middle of Naboth’s land, Elijah said, “Thus says the LORD: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood.” (21:19)
·      And the same judgment was coming upon Jezebel – “Also concerning Jezebel the LORD said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the bounds of Jezreel.’” (21:23)

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